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April 29, 2024 Top Legal News of the Week

Law Day 2024: Events, democracy survey mark celebration

In recognition of Law Day, the results from the 2024 ABA Survey of Civic Literacy were released and discussed during a recent virtual program. The survey tested respondents’ knowledge of the U.S. government and their attitudes towards democracy.

The online panel discussion, moderated by Judy Woodruff, senior correspondent for PBS NewsHour and host of “Judy Woodruff Presents: America at a Crossroads,” also included Danielle Allen, professor of political philosophy, public policy and ethics at Harvard University and author of “Democracy in the Time of Coronavirus”; Amanda Carpenter, writer and editor at Protect Democracy and former communications director for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz; and retired Judge J. Michael Luttig, formerly of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit and co-chair of the ABA Task Force for American Democracy. ABA President Mary Smith gave opening remarks.

Panelists said they were not surprised that survey respondents believed democracy in the United States is weaker today than it was five years ago, or that most people blamed misinformation, disinformation and/or political parties.

“I think if you have 75% of Americans saying that American democracy seems weaker now than five years ago, I hear that 75% of Americans who have a hope for something better and that to me is a very powerful statement,” Allen said.

“So, in other words, they’re not saying it’s weaker and we’re OK with that. They’re saying it's weaker and it’s a problem,” Allen added. “We would like to change direction. We'd like to change course. And so, then I think it’s really important to listen to what the American people are seeing as the problem.”

Panelists agreed that Americans play a crucial role in the democratic process and upcoming elections.

“This is a time when no one can sit on the sidelines,” Luttig said. “Our democracy and the rule of law is in peril, and both hang in the balance for the first time in our history in this election. This is a test of Americans’ commitment both to our democracy and to our rule of law.”

Carpenter said, “I do think largely this poll tracks with the public paying attention. They know there’s problems.”

Carpenter said her hope comes from the public understanding its role in upcoming elections. “If there’s hope going forward, if the public understands it is our job to participate in this thing, and we can’t just leave it to judges and we can’t just leave it to public officials. It’s actually on us.”

Luttig added, “I have always found my hope in the American people. I believe still to this day that the vast majority of American people believe in democracy as a form of government and as the only form of government for the United States of America. And I still believe that vast majority believe in not only the Constitution, but the rule of law.”

The survey is released each year to mark Law Day, observed annually on May 1. The results are from a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,000 respondents from March 4-9.

Read the complete report here.

Other Law Day events scheduled around the country included:

  • A discussion between the Law Librarian of Congress Aslihan Bulut and ABA President Smith on this year’s Law Day theme, “Voices of Democracy.” The conversation is available at the Law Library of Congress blog. The ABA and Law Library of Congress Law Day webinar, “Voices of Democracy,” which discusses democracy in a global sense, is also available on the blog.
  • On Wednesday, May 1 from 1:30‐5:30 p.m. EDT, the American Democracy Listening Tour will be livestreamed from the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The livestream will be on the ABA Task Force for American Democracy website. Philadelphia is the third stop on the cross-country listening tour that addresses issues such as trust in elections and improving civic dialog. Mike McDonald, president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, and Jen Coatsworth, Philadelphia Bar chancellor, will give welcome remarks. Matt Archer-Beck, ABA Law Day chair, will discuss the importance of Law Day and ABA President Smith will introduce the ABA Task Force for American Democracy. Mark Alexander, dean of Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, will moderate a conversation on civility and the state of democracy with task force co-chairs Luttig and Jeh Charles Johnson, former secretary of Homeland Security. There also will be a presentation by Pennsylvania Secretary of State Al Schmidt and other panel discussions.

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